West Palm Beach flight service returns

Accommodating local snowbirds, Southwest adds seasonal flights to Florida destination

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Local travelers will have another option to escape the snow next winter.

Southwest Airlines will be adding seasonal service to West Palm Beach, Fla., from Pittsburgh International Airport on Feb. 14. It marks the first time Pittsburgh will have direct service to West Palm Beach since US Airways dropped its flights to the destination in 2007.

"We've always had a strong regional demand for the West Palm Beach market," airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said. "There are a lot of Pittsburgh snowbirds that have places in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach."

West Palm Beach currently ranks as the 30th top destination from Pittsburgh. US Airways, the city's dominant airline, eliminated the service as part of a series of cuts it has made at the airport over the last decade.

The Southwest service will be seasonal in nature. After its Valentine's Day start, the daily flight will operate at least through March 8. It could be extended into the spring "if we see customer demand for that route," Southwest spokeswoman Ashley Dillon said.

Southwest sees seasonal service as a "smart" way to add flights to select markets, Ms. Dillon said.

She noted that the airline, for example, could devote planes to some markets during the winter months and then reassign them to other cities during the summer.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the West Palm Beach flight is "just a continuation of the efforts we're trying to make to continually expand service" from Pittsburgh International.

He said Southwest has indicated that it is looking to add more service in Pittsburgh, but declined to discuss specific markets. Ms. Dillon said Southwest has no plans to add more flights right now, "but that doesn't mean we're not looking at new opportunities all the time."

Southwest is the airport's second largest airline, carrying about 18 percent of all travelers. It averages 19 flights a day to seven destinations -- Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix and Tampa. It dropped service to Philadelphia in January.

travel - businessnews

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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